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5 Things 2020 Taught Me About Remote Leadership

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Only one year ago, I shared how the trend was moving to remote work. According to a survey from CloudApp, more than 50% of younger generations were working from home at least part of the week, new startups were launching remote, and companies like GitLab were carrying the torch of possibility.

Little did I know how much that would be accelerated due to a global pandemic. In March, we were thrust into the unknown, and “2 years of digital transformation talks were crammed into 2 weeks,� said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. The tech world moved remotely. Here is what I have learned over the year leading a marketing org and company that previously was not remote.

1. Find your comfort zone

I started like most of you. Unsure of what to do and how to make it work. My first day was spent in my basement on an IKEA kids chair and laptop on my lap.

Day 1 of remote work.

Some remote setups are better than others.

I was literally and physically out of my comfort zone with my nice desk, big monitors, and complete quiet. It has taken time to adjust, to find a groove. I still haven’t quite figured it out and may not ever figure it out until we return to the “old normal.�

What I have learned is that it’s important to adapt and find peace with a new situation. At the very beginning, my team and I did 10-minute standup chats every morning. It was a chance to replace the familiar morning conversations that happen casually at the start of work. Those have gradually faded to a normal weekly cadence, but was a helpful way to stay connected.

I take productivity breaks at home, make sure to play with my kids during that time, so they aren’t desperate for my attention during an important meeting. I also try to separate work and home as much as possible, but I have definitely had a toddler join me on plenty of Zoom calls. These things have helped me to find some sort of comfort zone with change.

Once you find a new normal spot, you will be able to lead better. You can find ways to help others when you have taken care of yourself.

2. Capture the moment

Remote Startups
Be nimble as a remote leader.

Leading marketing at CloudApp, in which screen recorder and screenshot for mac and PC products help remote workers stay connected, I saw a unique moment to capture an audience and help them along the way with some remote work tips and tricks. We put out dozens of content pieces, including podcasts, webinars, blog posts, and guides. The content exploded and had over 100k views directly tied to it over a 45-day span.

Obviously, this moment was a chance for our company to lead and help in the situation. In my 15 years, I have found there are constantly opportunities like this for companies to step up and help their community. It’s important to be flexible and build in time for campaigns that capture a cultural moment in time.

These campaigns generally run hot for a few months and then peter out, but provide a good opportunity to build global awareness of your brand and strengthen ties with your community. Going through this exercise of trend content will also help you to learn how nimble your team is and how you can try and create success with similar campaigns in the future.

3. Over-communicate

remote team video conference
Meet often with your remote team. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s amazing the amount of side, informal conversations you have on a daily basis when you are side by side with your team. In remote work, those meetings are gone. How can they be replaced? I’ve taken a combination of technology and virtual meetings to do so.

Slack or Microsoft Teams can compensate for some conversations; just make sure to use them wisely. It’s important to block off time for yourself to not be available on these channels.

1:1s and team meetings can provide opportunities to give pass downs from other teams and stay connected as a team. It’s important to protect these on your calendar and not continually reschedule or cancel.

4. Project Management

All projects and campaigns should have a process to ensure they are launched on time and have good results.

Kick-off call – this can be a great time to identify the expected outcomes and timeline for a project or campaign. Everyone who is involved in cross-functionally should be invited to the kick-off call. I also love to use this time to introduce how we will track success along the way.

Project Management software – Having a place to track updates and make assignments is key to scaling, especially with multiple projects running simultaneously. Asana and Jira are both great options for project management.

The key is clear outcomes and milestones along the way. It is also helpful to have a lead for the overall project to help coordinate and ensure updates are put into the project management software.

Quick updates – these can be done with a CloudApp screen recording, a 15 min stand up meeting, or just over email/slack, whatever your company preference is. The key is to have some sort of check-in on measurement to ensure progress and accountability.

Post mortem – sometimes these can be too fluffy. Including things that went massively wrong along with the wins can be helpful in refining the process and making it smoother the next time around.

5. Have fun and celebrate

last minute gift ideas
Don’t forget to celebrate.

I still do a terrible job at this. I am a much more fun leader in person than I am remote. What I have learned, though, is that there needs to be time to celebrate. The best thing we do at CloudApp is a Cloud9 channel in Slack. This is a place that every organization can celebrate small and big wins.

Finding time to celebrate asynchronously and also in team meetings really creates a culture that wants to continue winning and connects to a leader who can help to continue that focus.

Image Credit: rebrand cities; pexels

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